I’ve been reading up on gardening in the southwest lately and I have found that I actually really enjoy reading these books. I could seriously delve into a horticulture book and not come up for air until it was finished. I never though I could read these kinds of books and be sad when they were finished and I had extracted every ounce of gardening knowledge from their pages. But now I’m sad. Must. Buy. More. Gardening. Books.
1. Extreme Gardening: How to grow organic in the hostile deserts by Dave Owens
This book is a must-have for gardeners in the Arizona desert. According to the author, there is a whole other set of rules that come along with gardening in this part of the US, and he covers them pretty well! So well, in fact, that I have a beautiful, thriving flower garden full of dianthus, geraniums, alyssum, begonia, stock, bottle brush, trailing rosemary, and blue plumbago! I couldn’t have done it properly without this book. I would have had no idea what this (nearly lifeless) soil needed without his book (which was just a healthy dose of soft rock phosphorus and compost).
This book has full chapters dedicated to vegetables, herbs, flowers (including roses and sunflowers), fruits & nut trees, and lawn care. He covers how to choose each variety for this part of the country, how to plant it, how to care for it, and even how to enjoy and protect it! Of course he also covers organic pest control, and Arizona gardening basics. I take this book to the nursery with me and I feel no shame whatsoever whipping it out when a pretty flower catches my eye (or nose).
2. Talking Dirt: The dirt diva’s down-to-earth guide to organic gardening by Annie Spiegelman
If you don’t think you’d enjoy reading a book about gardening, this might be the book for you. The writer has a wonderful sense of humor that I can totally relate to with chapter titles like Going Compostal!, Butterflies in the ‘Hood, and Return of the Killer Tomatoes. She discusses the seemingly mystical botanical naming system, covers the anatomy of a plant, provides a list of all the tools you need and why, and so much more, all while providing a few really good laughs (that is, if you have a sense of humor). At the end of each chapter she provides a plant recommendation complete with care instructions, origin, hardiness zone, and growing requirements. She also provides a “whaaa-whaaa rating” from 1 to 10 depending on the difficulty of care just to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself in front of your neighbors. This was the first gardening book that I ever read, and may be the reason I can enjoy reading them so much, so I’d start with this one if I were you!
3. Grow Organic by DK Publishing
This is a pretty generic organic gardening book that covers all of the basics…along with beautiful photos. It has a pretty good section on composting, and a pretty large section on growing organic vegetables. If you need/love photos, then this is a great book. I reference it when I feel like I might not be doing something right (like tamping?).
4. Desert Gardening: Fruits & Vegetables by George Brookbank
This is another great book written for gardeners in the desert southwest. It’s pretty dry if you don’t already enjoy reading gardening books and requires a lot of imagination when looking at the photos. See for yourself:
But come on, people! This is, by far, the only complaint anyone has about this book. It is packed full of information about desert gardening and has taught me so much that I wouldn’t have known had I not been able to look past the terrible photos (gosh, that sounds shallow and superficial). Like grapes! I had no idea that grapes could survive and thrive here! But they can, and George tells me how! He has a whole chapter dedicated to peppers. And my favorite thing? The Desert Gardener’s Calendar. You all know me. I love to plan. I love calendars. Something about little squares with numbers in them indicating the day of the year just motivates me to write stuff in them…then forget about the stuff that I write…then feel guilty when I go back a few pages and see that I forgot. Darn. Anyway, he gets super specific in his tables, even including the elevation, which really changes up the calendar for some vegetables. If you are serious about gardening in the desert (Arizona, California, New Mexico) I definitely recommend this book. The photos will make you cry, but the information and knowledge George Brookbank provides makes up for the tears you will shed.
I am hoping to add a few more books to my library this Christmas (**Christmas hint-Christmas hint** My husband told me to yell that really loud before I mention something I might want for Christmas):
1. Month-by-Month Gardening in the Deserts of Arizona by Mary Irish
2. The Garden Guy: A seasonal guide to organic gardening in the desert southwest by Dave Owens
3. Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A practical guide to small-scale, integrative farming and gardening by Sepp Holzer.
Do you have a favorite gardening book or resource? Share! Share!!